‘You can choose your friends but not your family’ is one of the truest phrases made. While most have been fine, many household units have descended into warfare. The mix of personalities from larger families are bound to have several disagreements which ‘August: Osage County’ explores. Based on Tracey Letts’ play, it portrays the behavioural absurdity most have to put up with in order to maintain the farcical facade of familial bliss.
After her husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) commits suicide, cancer-stricken Violet (Meryl Streep) summons the family for his funeral. Among them are daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts) and Karen (Juliette Lewis). Bringing their significant others and other relatives, the stage is set for a reverential memorial. It soon turns into anything but with old secrets surfacing. Untangling the personal web becomes an emotional chore for this very complex household.
It’s boringly repetitive to praise Meryl Streep for yet another amazing performance but it’s one she deserves. Her turn in ‘August: Osage County’ is a revelation in studied bitterness. Decayed by the past and angry about the present, her existence is fuelled by her torment of her children. Whilst some ensemble dramas become lost as they focus on several characters, it works perfectly here. Each effectively contributes to a narrative examining the fabric of kinship and the sometimes agonising blood-bond families share.
Director John Wells pieces together the various strands with ease. He is assisted by some amazing cinematography bringing Osage County to life in all its starkness. Its barren vistas mirror the barren affection the characters feel for each other. How their lives have become so wrapped in regret and despair is painful to see. ‘August: Osage County’ isn’t completely morose as plenty of natural humour rising from the absurd nature of their strange relationships.
‘August: Osage County’ is an excellent essay in the ties that bind. We all have a family whether we want to or not with the film’s authenticity revealing much about the nature of genetics and how much we inherit from our forebears.
Rating out of 10: 9
Current films and TV shows appear keen on providing viewers with a ‘journey’. Crafting a compelling narrative within the framework of a person’s quest is meant to hook us in. Such journeys can either be emotional or literal. ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ features both. Charting a man’s odyssey as he confronts old demons, it travels fairly smoothly until its final destination.
Raimund (Jeremy Irons) is an ancient language expert and teacher. Often perplexed by what life offers a sudden occurrence changes his existence. Preventing a woman from jumping off a bridge, she vanishes before he can ask her name. Leaving behind her coat, he unearths a book with a train ticket attached. He is intrigued to discover the book is written by a former revolutionary. Deciding to use the ticket to locate the author, what follows is a voyage of discovery which finally answers the questions that has riddled him.
Adapted from Pascal Mercier’s novel, ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ is a slow-burning production. Un-wrapping the secrets of those Raimund meets, it explores the legacy of people’s actions. How the past affects the present is reasonably handled by director Billie August. He ensures we see Raimund slowly break free of his introverted nature as he discovers aspects of certain events. His ability to inter-act with others becomes tested as each participant from an important revolution tells their own side of the conflict.
Whilst the characters and central plot are interesting, the mystery behind them never really flies. August’s direction is far too low-key with moments meant to conjure genuine suspense falling flat. The convoluted plot doesn’t help although the quality of the performances is consistently high. The performances make some unsatisfactory scenes work as the film shifts it way through various time-lines.
‘Night Train to Lisbon’ is a mostly engaging movie about how a random occurrence can forever alter one person’s perspective. The road taken in this cinematic journey may occasionally be bumpy, although it proves if one has the will to discover something it can lead to life-changing moments.
Rating out of 10: 6